Justice for Janitors: Scales of Organizing and Representing Workers

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Abstract:

Low levels of unionization in the United States have led to much attention being devoted recently to the development of new models of organizing workers. In contrast to those which dominated for most of the past half century, the models currently being embraced by many labor leaders are typically grassroots and bottom‐up in nature and call for a high level of participation by rank‐and‐file workers. The Justice for Janitors (JfJ) campaign is an example of just such a model, one which has been widely lauded for its innovativeness and success. However, whereas the campaign is often thought of as representing a highly decentralized approach to organizing because of the sensitivity it pays to local labor market conditions, the Service Employees’ International Union which developed it has recently called for a concentration of power in a small number of national union bodies. This has raised questions about the geographical scale at which power should rest within the union movement and how to develop organizing strategies which are locally sensitive yet also capable of challenging nationally and/or globally organized firms.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0066-4812.2006.00600.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography-Anthropology, University of Southern Maine, Gorham, Maine, USA;, Email: lsavage@usm.maine.edu

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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